"Canelo" Alvarez, shown here after a May 5 victory over Shane… (Al Bello / Getty Images )
James Kirkland was announced as star Mexican fighter Saul "Canelo" Alvarez's Sept. 15 opponent Thursday, and headed to train Thursday night and Friday morning.
Weighing the pain he was feeling in his arthroscopically repaired right shoulder along with the magnitude of the bout being the increasingly popular Alvarez's first pay-per-view at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and his pay, Kirkland said he decided Friday his shoulder won't allow him to fight Alvarez.
"People expect Kirkland to give it his all, 100%," Kirkland told The Times in a telephone interview Friday afternoon. "If I fight Alvarez with one arm and lose, people will say, 'Kirkland's not as good as thought he was.' Well, I'd be fighting one-handed.
"An injury is an injury. My health is my performance, and if I don't pay attention to my health, who's to say it won't happen again. I need to sit back and stay off it and make sure it's healed to the max."
Kirkland (31-1, 27 knockouts) dismissed a report he was to earn as much as $3 million to fight Alvarez (40-0-1, 29 KOs), explaining instead he was expecting a purse worth "six figures -- the biggest money of my career -- but if that" $3 million, "was the case, I'd be fighting."
Alvarez's promoter, Richard Schaefer, said after Kirkland's withdrawal and the motorcycle accident that left original Alvarez opponent Paul Williams paralyzed below the waist, he is now considering opponents including Austin Trout, who'll defend his world super-welterweight belt Saturday night at Home Depot Center against Delvin Rodriguez, and Carlos Quintana.
Alvarez is expected to watch the Trout-Rodriguez fight from ringside, Schaefer said.
"Alvarez is the biggest name in boxing now behind Mayweather and Pacquiao," Kirkland said. "They all knew what a huge fight like this would bring," financially, "so if it means I'm jeopardizing my career to take it, pay me what I'm worth.
"And don't look at this as if I'm ducking and dodging. Money's not going to make me jump the gun on this. I think 'Canelo' would want me at 100% for this fight. I love this sport, and want to show everyone again what a true warrior is."
Kirkland has overcome separate prison stays for armed robbery and a firearm possession conviction, and in November endured a tough assignment against Alfredo Angulo in Cancun, Mexico, winning by sixth-round technical knockout to resurrect his career.
He said the shoulder discomfort in training caused his mind to race.
"I want to be sure I can win this fight," Kirkland said. "I've wanted this fight from the beginning. I took two eliminator fights to get it. They wanted to build him more. They did. He's a great fighter now. But I have to pay attention to my long term and not fight this fight with an arm and a half.
"If Alvarez loses, I think he'll be OK. But if Kirkland loses, what happens to him?"
Kirkland said he's like to return to the ring against a "mediocre" opponent around October, then get his shot at Alvarez sometime in 2013.
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